From the addictive 21 Balançoires to the city’s birthday bash, the International Digital Arts Biennial to the new 2-22 complex (pictured above), Montreal’s premiere performance district, the ever-evolving Quartier des Spectacles, is about to take it to the next level this spring and summer…
This spring the Quartier des Spectacles will resume the phenomenally popular 21 Balançoires (or 21 Swings, an interactive, collective instrument – each swing generates its own musical notes in conjunction with the other swings) on the Promenade des Artistes, starting April 19 and continuing until June 3. Moreover, in testament to its resonance with the general public, 21 Balançoires will resume permanently, perennially, in the years to come.
“People asked for it over and over,” says Pierre Fortin, the General Director of the Quartier des Spectacles. “They’ll be like lilacs – every spring they’ll come back.”
On May 17, the city of Montreal will celebrate its 370th birthday, which coincides with the kick-off of the Quartier’s summer programming, which last year saw approximately 300 performances featuring artists from a wide range of disciplines including theatre, dance, music, circus and other performing arts. Also starting on May 17 and running until June 3, the facades of seven major buildings contained within the Quartier des Spectacles will form the canvas for the creations of digital artists as part of the International Digital Arts Biennial (April 18-June 13).
“It’s very special,” enthuses Fortin. “You have a lot of projections here and there at various festivals, but what is being built with this is a permanent structure of projections on buildings, so they’ll always be there. So, with respect to UQAM’s Président-Kennedy Building, for example, when the Jazz Festival comes, they’ll be able to use it… I think it’s really going to be a great attraction.”
Without doubt, it’s a huge investment in Montreal’s cultural future. “Absolutely,” concurs Fortin. “And people from the MUTEK and Elektra festivals, with whom we work for the International Digital Arts Biennial, are part of what we see as a bright future for digital arts in Montreal.”
Further to all of the aforementioned, this summer Sainte-Catherine Street (the principle artery through the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles), between Bleury and Saint-Laurent, will be closed to all but pedestrian traffic. “And there will be all kinds of action around there all summer,” says Fortin. “Projections at night, film, circus performance and, of course, the regular summer menu of events including the Jazz Festival, Les Francofolies, MUTEK, the Festival Transamériques, Just For Laughs, Nuits d’Afrique… They’re all going to go one after the other throughout the summer. It’s going to be mad!”
Approximately 40 festivals use the Quartier des Spectacles every year, but this year there is a special addition to the Quartier in the form of the newly-constructed Le 2-22 arts and culture building at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Laurent.
“It’s really the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles,” notes Fortin, “and it’s starting to live up to that reputation. There’s a lot of cultural action at 2-22 right now, from the radio station CIBL, to La Vitrine (pictured above)– the last-minute ticket booth for Montreal – to the restaurant Le St-Cyr, and upstairs there are many organizations for contemporary art and more. So it’s very exciting!”
Guest blogger Jamie O’Meara is a Montreal editor and journalist who covers arts, culture and music. Formerly the editor in chief of Hour Magazine, he is now an editor at Roverarts.com.
Photos: Eva Blue